Health Minister Ryan Park forced to scrap Christmas holidays as pay dispute with paramedics spirals

  • Published December 10, 2023
  • Industries

Daily Telegraph, 10 December 2023

Health Minister Ryan Park will axe his scheduled Christmas holidays if last-ditch pay negotiations with paramedics don’t prevent a much-feared meltdown.

The state’s ambulance pay crisis which threatens to bring the triple-zero call service to its knees is becoming a Christmas nightmare for the government, with Health Minister Ryan Park promising to axe his scheduled leave if a last-ditch deal can’t be made by Wednesday.

Mr Park was approved to take leave as soon as this Wednesday with his holidays lasting until after Christmas, with Planning Minister Paul Scully and Fair Trading Minister Anoulack Chanthivong set to cover for him.

Despite relations between the Health Services Union (HSU) and the state government spiralling late last week following the union’s rejection of a government pay offer, the move to scrap his leave was only confirmed after his office was contacted by The Telegraph on Sunday afternoon.

“Minister Park will not be going on planned annual leave until negotiations with the Health Services Union are resolved. This is too important,” a NSW Government spokeswoman said.

“The decision to cancel the Minister’s long-planned leave was taken last week.”

Opposition health spokesman Matt Kean accused Mr Park of being “caught-out”.

“The Health Minister has dropped the ball, and should have been focusing on his job instead of his leave – instead when he gets caught out he makes some half-hearted offer not to take a break,” Mr Kean said from Dubai, where he is attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

“The people of NSW can read the government gazette to see where Chris Minns’ and Ryan Park’s focus is – and it’s not on solving this crisis.”

A NSW Government spokeswoman said “Matt Kean is the biggest hypocrite in Australia. He caused this crisis and now he’s taken leave.”

Mr Kean responded: “Ryan Park and Chris Minns are the first members of a government in Australian history who think the opposition is in charge of their budget, their government, their negations and their self-caused crisis.”

HSU boss Gerard Hayes, who has previously accused the Minns government of abandoning paramedics, said he wouldn’t take leave until the issue was resolved when told of Mr Park’s scheduled holidays.

“Me and most of my staff are due to go on leave – we’re not going anywhere until this is resolved,” he said.

It comes as the HSU and the NSW Health will face each other in the Industrial Relations Tribunal on Monday afternoon in a bid to reach a pay agreement.

Almost 2000 fed-up paramedics are threatening to withhold their registrations – which would prevent them attending triple-0 calls from January 1 – until the pay dispute is resolved.

The move could potentially force parliament to sit over summer to alter legislation allowing paramedics to work without the registrations.

Premier Chris Minns and Mr Park both pleaded for paramedics not to take the action, with Mr Minns telling Sky News “if a big number of paramedics don’t register by the first of January then triple-zero will go into meltdown and it would be catastrophic for emergency services in NSW”.

Mr Hayes said it was “unfair” for the NSW Government to shift the blame for the dispute on to paramedics.

“Paramedics have been holding NSW health together through and after Covid, they’ve been wrapped in plastic for three years … it’s unfair of the government to put this back on paramedics,” he said.